There are some things to consider before you start backpacking for the first time. Beginners need to know about backpacking equipment, gear, supplies and essentials.
Backpacking can turn into a horrifying experience if you're not prepared with the basics.
Backpacking can be done in either urban areas or in the wilderness or a mixture of both and the requirements of backpacking equipment and gear are different as well as the planning.
Common tips for Beginners
There are some backpacking tips that apply to both the wilderness and civilization.
Here they are:
- Break in your hiking boots by taking them for short hikes.
- Test your backpack clothing to check if they'll be comfortable for you by using them on short hikes. Fully load your backpack with all you need for the backpacking trip and take them on short hikes to test for comfort and to find out which of the straps does a better job in distributing the load.
- Test and learn how to use your camping equipment including camping stove, water filter, camping tents, GPS, altimeter and headlamps.
- Get your body in shape because backpacking can get very nasty if you're not fit.
- Travelling light is oftentimes much more enjoyable than having too much on your backpack.
Backpacking in Urban Areas for Beginners
Traditionally, backpacking is a cheap way to get from one place to another. It involves more than just walking and hiking.
Historically it's a cheap form of travel. Though it is an enjoyable experience, it's more of an education than a vacation.
You're likely to experience a lot more of the important stuff when you're backpacking than when you're just using some kind of modern transportation.
An hours' travel by car can mean a whole day or like 2 or more if you're backpacking but a backpacker also experiences a lot more. Backpackers see a whole lot more than the normal tourist. They mingle with local people and witness what real life is really like at a certain place. It's like you're living there for some time.
There is a sense of community as you stay in a backpacker's hostel or lodge where you'll meet other like-minded individuals sharing the rooms, kitchen, toilet, lounge are, etc.
Backpacking is about travelling with a small budget and to avoid the risk of theft backpackers don't usually carry expensive electronic equipment.
The rising trend is backpacking with a big budget, staying in lavish accommodations and carrying expensive equipment such as laptops and PDAs especially for young generations to satisfy their need to stay connected.
Backpacking in Rural Areas or the Wild
In some places, having a big budget doesn't help. Small villages and towns may not be able to offer lavish accommodations other than the backpacker's hostel and sometimes not even that equipment such as laptops and blackberries may be rendered useless especially in you are backpacking in the wilderness.
The initial cost can be quite high if you are backpacking in the wild especially you are hiking and camping as camping equipment like sleeping bags (especially down) and camping tents can get quite expensive.
Backpacking, for beginners, also requires a lot more preparation and research. Care should be taken in preparing equipment and you need to test it out and learn how to use them.
The most important backpacking gear is your hiking boots. It's important that your hiking boots are comfortable so having a perfect fit in the first place and breaking them in later is crucial.
The best way to break in your hiking boots is to take on short hikes with a full load. At the same time it's a good time to test your hiking/camping/backpacking gear including your backpack.
See if your clothing is too hot or too cold for you or if they pose any other problems like 'riding up' and rubbing against your skin.
Test your backpack whether they're comfortable or not. Try all the straps and identify which ones help distribute the load better.
Take your backpacking equipment a gear testing not just on smooth walkways but also on uneven ground going uphill and downhill to maximize testing. This will also toughen up your feet and reduce the chances of blistering when you go for the real trip and at same time improves your strength and fitness which is crucial for a good backpacking trip.
Learn and practice how to use all of your hiking and camping equipment so that you are more prepared for less than ideal situations.
Use a camping list or camping checklist and pack your hiking/camping gear and equipment early so that you can make sure that you don't miss any backpacking essentials including the first aid kit, personal medicine and safety and emergency equipment.
Pack heavier equipment close to your body so as to avoid your load from pulling away and make the backpack feel heavier than it is. Rain gear and a waterproof enclosure containing extra layers, gloves and hat should be kept at the top of your backpack where it is easily accessible.
Your clothing and sleeping bag should also be in a waterproof enclosure so that it stays dry even when your backpack is underwater.
Other things that need to dry include electronic equipment like laptops, cameras and camcorders, personal essentials such as toilet paper and daily essentials like snacks, compass, pocket knife, maps and guidebooks, sunscreen and insect repellents. Pack these in the outer pocket of your backpack as you are likely to use them more.
Water bottles should be kept upright and should be easily accessible as well. Your camping tent can strapped to the outside of your backpack including the tent poles.
The first aid kit should be kept where the contents can be secure yet is still easily accessible.
For beginners, choosing which camping food to bring could be a problem. Unfortunately the best way to determine which kinds of food is right for you to bring camping or backpacking is by trial and error. Take some advice here and there and see if it works for you.
To be safe, base your decisions on taste, nutritional value, weight, ease of preparation and packaging. A favorite among hikers and backpackers are dehydrated food which are light, have good nutritional value and also taste good.
Hiking has been long considered as one of the most effective ways to increase your fitness and it can be grueling.
Good preparation of backpacking equipment and gear and researching the place where you're going to explore as well as keeping yourself in shape will help you go through the expedition with minimal problems.
At the same time backpacking can be highly satisfying so if you're thinking of going backpacking, do it, it can be the most memorable days of your life.